|Our pottymouth speaker speaks|
Seldom does the geezer find common ground with the Tea Party crowd in Congress, but this time we are the strangest of bedfellows. The conservative Republicans in the House and I both want the Senators to keep their backsides firmly rooted in their chairs and do nothing. Letting “sequestration” take effect on Friday could be managed as a good step forward in what has become a tiresome, interminable budget battle in Washington.
The arch-conservative Representatives have been busily trying to convince us that serious sequestration consequences (they think cutting defense spending would be catastrophic) should be blamed on President Obama. It is true that the Administration conceived the sequestration plan. The Tea Partiers are correct about that. Their problem is that the American people don’t believe them. According to many polls, a majority will blame sequestration problems squarely on the Republicans.
Mr. Obama has been just as busily touring the country and issuing state-by-state assessments proclaiming that cutting up to 13 percent in defense spending and 9 percent in other discretionary spending areas will have horrific consequences. The centerpiece of the presidential arguments is that 750,000 jobs will disappear at a time when the economy is still struggling to right itself. That is a lot of hooey.
The cuts in defense can be achieved by temporarily reducing the number of hours civilian employees work this year. That will be unpleasant for the workers, of course, but their jobs would not be eliminated. Managers would have seven months to make useful economies and return the employees to full-time status. That should not be difficult considering the bloated condition of defense accounts, which Congress has been inflating almost without question for more than a decade.
Cuts in the other programs would cause some undesirable job losses and reductions in essential services, but Social Security and Medicaid would not be affected at all and only modest cuts would occur in Medicare reimbursements to healthcare providers. In a few cases, states can be expected to cover some of the federal shortfall should sequestration take place.
The President should call Boehner’s bluff. Let the cuts take place, and then have separate pieces of legislation quickly introduced to restore funding to all accounts that truly need it, but do not include defense. Republicans and Democrats in both houses then could let all of us see their true colors as they vote each federal service up or down.
The federal debt and budget deficit are serious matters, all the foggy mutterings of economists about percentages of domestic product and similar theoretical guidelines aside. The simple truth is that far too much of our tax revenue is going to pay interest on a gigantic debt, and the situation is getting worse by the day. That interest money should be used for things that benefit our society, not just investors who find U.S. bonds the safest place in the world to park their excess cash. It is important to get on with spending reductions, appropriate tax increases, and closing tax loopholes to set our financial house in order.
Although Medicare spending is far from sustainable and needs to be dealt with, defense is the biggest money sink in the federal budget right now. In recent years, it has been impossible to rein in defense budgets. That well known “military-industrial complex” simply has too much power with Congress, and until now, has had full support from administrations. Sequestration is the best opportunity that may come along in many years to take a real whack out of unnecessary defense spending.
Hold firm, Senators. Do what you do best—nothing. Sequestration can be turned into a positive thing for our nation.